News / Africa

Mugabe's Election Rush Quashes Zimbabwe Reform Hopes

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe jokes with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Harare, May 22, 2013.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe jokes with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Harare, May 22, 2013.
Reuters
Just after Zimbabwe's top court told President Robert Mugabe to hold elections before the end of July, he appeared in a documentary combining domestic campaign mode with a diplomatic charm offensive.
 
In the fly-on-the-wall show on South African television the 89-year-old opened up on the armed struggle for independence from Britain and making love to his 47-year-old wife.
 
He also revealed he wanted to add to his 33 years at the helm of the poor, land-locked southern African nation.
 
The footage provided a rare glimpse of Mugabe's human side, surrounded by his family, and turned heads in Zimbabwe's powerful neighbor, which is likely to be a major funder of an election and also a judge of its quality.
 
But Africa's oldest head of state skirted around the reforms to the army, police and media that he is under pressure to carry out to ensure a peaceful and credible vote.
 
With the court giving him less than 60 days to call the election, there would be little time — even if he wanted to — to make any meaningful changes to state institutions that remain firmly in his camp.
 
"My people still need me and when people need you to lead them, it is not time, sir — it doesn't matter how old you are — to say goodbye," he told South African interviewer Dali Tambo in the documentary, aired on Sunday but shot several weeks earlier.
 
Five years after the disputed and violent elections that spawned a fractious coalition with his main adversary, Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's neighbors are desperate to avoid a rerun of a poll that sparked an exodus of opposition supporters.
 
The regional 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) has called a summit this weekend to help Harare raise the estimated $132 million needed for the election, and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it will use the opportunity to tackle Mugabe on the issue of reforms.
 
But with the economy bouncing back since 2008 from hyperinflation and a 40 percent economic contraction over the previous eight years, there is every chance that, even in a fair fight, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party might win.
 
Although there are no formal opinion polls, surveys in the last year by Freedom House, a U.S. political think tank, and African research group Afro-Barometer have given Mugabe a narrow lead over Tsvangirai, who has suffered hits to his personal and professional reputation since entering government.
 
"Mugabe's position is informed by his belief that he will win the elections and that ZANU-PF has recovered enough after 2008 to survive Morgan Tsvangirai," said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at Harare's University of Zimbabwe.
 
"It is a gamble but we are in an environment in which you cannot rule out ZANU-PF."
 
The MDC disputes the findings of unfavorable voter surveys, saying Zimbabweans are still too afraid to express themselves freely after the 2008 bloodshed, and remains confident of victory.
 
Fig-leaf reform

In March, Zimbabwe's 13 million people overwhelmingly approved a new constitution to replace the one forged in the dying days of British colonial rule in 1979.
 
The new charter lays the foundations for a more balanced political playing field by trimming the powers of the president and enshrining notions such as freedom of the media.
 
But the MDC argues that the vote can only be truly fair if broadcast media are opened up to all parties, new voters are allowed to register freely and the army and police keep out of politics.
 
The court ruling means there is now precious little time to drive through real change.
 
This is especially true of the army, whose leaders are open in their contempt for Tsvangirai, a former union leader who did not play a prominent role in the war against the white-minority government that ran what was then Rhodesia until 1980.
 
The military and police have also been accused of vote rigging and intimidation, leading to Western sanctions against Mugabe and senior ZANU-PF apparatchiks.
 
As such, analysts fear any reforms will amount to little more than fig-leaves — army commanders being asked to issue statements affirming their neutrality and regulators licensing private broadcasters just before the polls.
 
"We might go through some rituals but I don't see anything changing much on the ground," said Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional law professor and critic of both Tsvangirai and Mugabe.
 
"I am sure Mugabe will concede some ground on some of the issues in deference to SADC and to retain the regional support he needs for political legitimacy."

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid